Saturnalia review: Just the artsiest game

Santa Ragione
Santa Ragione /

Title: Saturnalia
Developer: Santa Ragione
Publishers: Santa Ragione
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed on), Xbox Series, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC
Release Date: October 27, 2022

Everyone can agree that AAA games reach that level for a reason, be it money pumped into the project, exceptional graphics or engaging stories. I will argue that in terms of horror games, AAA doesn’t always take the cake. Take the evolution of Resident Evil, for instance. A franchise that started in pure horror evolved into an action game based on what audiences wanted. Indie games, however, don’t feel the pressure of trying to be something for the masses. Indie horror just gets to be indie order and I would argue that it opens the door to whole new worlds of creativity. Case in point: Saturnalia.

Saturnalia is a little indie title set in Italy. The little bite sized survival horror game finds you as one of four playable characters in a small Sardinian town called Gravoi in the late 80’s. You begin as Anita who is a geologist in town looking at the mines. She has been having an affair with a married local and has found herself pregnant. Paul is a photographer who has come to town looking for his birth parents. Sergio is returning after his relationship with another man was discovered and he was sent away. Then there is Claudia who is looking into the death of her aunt and wishing to leave Gravoi. With each character, you will have a particular skill or piece of equipment that the other characters do not have.

During this time in Gravoi is in the middle of its yearly winter festival and the streets are empty save for our playable characters. Oh, not to mention a murderous creature that is stalking through the church and the town. Can’t forget that guy. He is great at interrupting your progress in uncovering the mysteries of the town and the characters’ own unknowns. If all of your characters succumb to the deadly beast, the town rearranges and you must learn the ins and outs of the layout all over again.

Santa Ragione /

The concept of Saturnalia is so simple yet so interesting. The art style for the game’s animation is unlike any I have ever seen before and I found myself engulfed in it so much at first that I kept getting caught by The Creature. And its incessant stalking creates a true air of intense anxiety. The colors of the game are so bright and intense but with the surrealistic and sketchy feel of the characters and environments, those bright and vibrant colors get tones down, like a charcoal drawing on top of a child’s painting.

While the unusual gameplay and stunning artwork can both catch your eye, those weren’t my favorite things about Saturnalia. From the moment the music kicks in on the PS5 screen while just hovering over the game, the soundtrack hooked me and hooked me hard. The intro music literally had my husband shouting from a different room, “What are you listening to?? It sounds awesome!” There’s also the sounds that kick in when the monster is on your tail and it gets you  so revved and freaked out that you’re stressed as hell by the time the monster catches up to you. Some people focus on mechanics, some on graphics…I’m a sound kind of gal. I love when a game really takes advantage of sound and music to build the atmosphere and themes.

Saturnalia is a game on the shorter side (well, if you are as bad as I was at it, it may go longer) but in terms of indie horror, it lands on the successful side of the fence. The kaleidoscope-esque quality of walking through the darkened streets with nothing but a match to guide your way will leave you with an anxious knot in your stomach. Saturnalia won’t be for everyone but if you love how artistic that indie horror can be, you will definitely enjoy yourself.

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Saturnalia (PS5) Score: 8/10

Saturnalia is a showcase of indie creativity at its best. With beautiful visuals and an even better soundtrack, it’s not a bad way to spend a few hours.